When it comes to service dogs, there are a lot of common assumptions and misconceptions swirling around. A couple of weeks ago, we discussed 6 very common misconceptions surrounding service dogs, but you may have guessed that there are a lot more than 6 myths. Everything from the idea that service dogs bond quickly to their handlers to the idea that service dogs are all work and no fun.
In this post, we will tackle six more common fallacies in the service dog world.
Service dogs need to perform multiple skills to be a service dog
This is not true. Service dogs are trained to have a specific skill set to meet specific needs. For example, a handler can have post-traumatic stress disorder and need a service animal trained to specifically mitigate PTSD symptoms such as recognizing a dissociative state or a flashback. But if the same handler has diabetes, they may have a second service dog trained to smell changes of sugar levels in the blood: one service animal to mitigate PTSD symptoms and another to help monitor diabetes.
Therefore, a person could have more than one service dog to perform different tasks.
A service dog coming from a training program will bond with the handler immediately
This is rarely the case. Just like any relationship, one between a service dog and a handler will take time and effort to grow. Some people may expect that a dog will immediately bond with them and that their behavior will be flawless. But the truth is that no matter the organization or the training method, it takes both time and effort for a dog to bond to a handler. This doesn’t by any means indicate it will not happen, it just means patience is necessary when working with and being paired with a service animal. It’s important to keep in mind that dogs are not robots, but are living, thinking and emotional animals.
Any dog can be a service dog
There is a common misconception that any dog with the proper training can become a service animal. But this is just not the case. The selection of a service dog is a very calculated and particular process. Overall, less than one percent of dogs are actually cut out to do service dog work. Service dogs must have a very specific temperament, instinct, and personality to become service dogs. Even if a dog is specially bred, carefully selected, and even professionally trained, still, only around 30-50% of these dogs are suitable for service dog work.
They don’t get to be “normal dogs”
Service animals live pretty awesome lives and are well cared for all around. They are impeccably trained animals and are wonderful at their service dog ‘jobs’ but they are still dogs. Just because they are a working animal does not mean that they do not get time off just to be a dog. In fact, off-duty time is necessary for them to relax and be better at their service dog duties. When off duty, service dogs are just like a normal pet and get to run, play, relax and be a “dog.”
Not only this, dogs find their service work stimulating and engaging. Their work and ever-lasting training keeps them mentally stimulated.
That they don't have personalities
Just like every person is unique and has a distinct personality, dogs do too. Just because a service animal is trained to do work and perform tasks doesn’t mean they do not have their own unique personalities.
All dogs go through the same training method, or all dogs are positively trained
There are many forms of dog training and although positive methods are more widely adapted now than ever before, it does not mean all training facilities are using these methods. There are still training facilities that use discipline and negative reinforcement and even use shock collars. Here at New Life K9s, we use the Bond Based Choice Training method, which is a positive training method that focuses on the bond between human and canine, not just blind obedience, commands, and cues.
Remember, just like so many other things, assumptions are not always true. This is also the case when it comes to service dogs. Keep learning and get to know the facts by reading more of our blogs and other service dog resources!
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New Life K9s places service dogs with veterans and first responders with PTSD at no cost to the veterans and first responders.
- SitStay. “Are Service Dogs Ever Off-Duty?” SitStay, 26 September 2019
- “Frequently Asked Questions About Service Animals and the ADA” U.S. Department of Justice.